Recently, Osafo Maafo, Senior Minister of the Republic of Ghana stated that a 10 billion dollar facility Ghana arranged with China could generate about 100,000 jobs. I found it both reassuring and thought provoking.
Unemployment is one of the greatest challenges in our country today. The youth sit on edge and can explode anytime out of frustration.
Such is the seriousness of the situation that the Venerable Ex-President Kufuor warned of the acute unemployment situation being an imminent security crisis in Ghana, even to the extent of it being a threat to our current political dispensation.
Solving this issue needs a multi-faceted approach, with immediate, medium and long term strategies in mind. Thinking out of the box is necessary to help tackle this issue.
WE CAN EASILY GENERATE 100,000 JOBS FOR GHANAIANS IN ONE SINGLE YEAR.
It is for this reason that I propose the EASIEST, LOWEST HANGING FRUIT that can be used to generate employment for Ghanaian youth within 12 months. We can generate up to 100,000 jobs for Ghanaians in The Gulf Region (The UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan ), in one year, plus an inward remittance of over 400 MILLION USD per year . We do not need a loan or factories, neither do we need an expansion of Government’s capacity to hire. We need just the strategic plan and Government lobbying and negotiations.
Whilst it is extremely laudable for this Government to be focusing on the generation of employment via vehicles like infrastructural projects, Planting for Food and Jobs, the revolutionary One District one Factory project etc., we should not lose sight of the fact that even these noble interventions cannot absorb the majority of unemployed Ghanaians in the short and medium term. 216 factories will be set up in the next 4 years. An average employment of 500 workers generated by each factory translates to 108,000 workers in the next 5 years when all factories may have started working.
This same number can be employed in The Gulf within 1 year at almost no cost and with no brick and mortar investments.
IS THE GULF SAFE FOR GHANAIAN WORKERS?
Immediately one mentions the Gulf Region and jobs, many people react with repulsion and skepticism. Horror stories abound about maltreatment of housemaids and domestic workers (both true and false). There is the often repeated IGNORANT allegation that all Ghanaians and Africans who go to The Gulf to work are “sold and beaten or killed” and hearing this from certain quarters is unfortunate . Housemaids or domestic servants job is just one of over 100 job categories.
The focus of this article is NOT on recruiting housemaids and domestic workers to The Gulf. It is focused on getting jobs in COMPANIES and ORGANISATIONS in The Gulf for Ghanaian youth, skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled.
The Gulf is a very safe, peaceful, lucrative place to stay and work for any hardworking, serious and law abiding Ghanaian who migrates there LEGALLY and through the RIGHT CHANNELS to work for COMPANIES. Examples abound (visit www.ghgulfworkers.com where many Ghanaians in The Gulf post pictures and videos of themselves and their work and sleeping places), of tens of thousands of Ghanaians happily working and living in The UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia etc.
Credible, Multi-National companies which employ 100s and sometimes 1,000s of Ghanaians in The Gulf include Almarai, McDonalds, Transguard, Petroserv, Sodexo, National Taxi, Star Security, Larsen and Toubro, China State Construction Engineering Corporation, Qatalum, Mowasalat, Saudi Public Transport Company, Regency Group, and many more.
WHY THE GULF
Countries in The Gulf Region are fantastically rich. The per Capita income of Qatar alone is about $145,000. Ghana’s per capita income is about $1400, which is less than 1% of that of Qatar. Same holds true for other countries in The Gulf. They are always undertaking huge projects that need a lot of human resources and labour supply. Their small population cannot provide all their human resource needs, be it highly skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled labour. So they rely heavily on workers from other parts of the world; The Oceania, The Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa.
The Gulf offers the highest and easiest access for Migrant Jobs. Their visa processes are fast and the demand for workers is huge. Recruitment to deployment can sometimes take less than a month.
Unlike other parts of the developed world where the only work available through Migration Programmes target highly skilled and expert labour, The Gulf offers opportunities for all including even the uneducated or illiterate Ghanaian.
With inward remittances of Migrant Workers, the Gulf has the highest percentage of remittances in respect of income to remittance ration. Various research works point to the fact that the average Asian or African Migrant Worker in The Gulf sends up to 70% of his salary back home, higher than the average Migrant Worker in Europe, America, Canada and The Oceania simply because these other locations mostly offer a pathway to citizenship which the Gulf doesn’t .
Hardly will a Migrant Worker in The Gulf take a mortgage to purchase a home in The Gulf. They repatriate most of their earnings home to rather build houses and/or invest in other projects. The remittance is one big advantage to be derived from sending workers to The Gulf.
HOW EASY IS IT TO GET 100,000 JOB OPENINGS IN ONE SINGLE YEAR?
Already there is a very high demand for Ghanaian workers, due to the reliable supply from licensed agencies, the general good behavior of the Ghanaian worker and his expertise. Gulf countries recruit mostly Anglophone Africans because English and Arabic are the languages spoken there. Following the examples of Kenya and Uganda, our government needs to lobby for Work Visa Allocations/Slots from the governments of these countries.
Kenya recently started negotiations to secure 100,000 jobs in Saudi Arabia ALONE for semi-skilled and skilled workers ( http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kenya-to-export-100-000-workers-to-Saudi-Arabia/1056-3891314-l3j9btz/index.html)
Qatar has already offered Uganda 40,000 jobs for the year 2017 alone.
These examples alone show Ghana can easily secure 100,000 jobs with some 6 or 7 countries in The Gulf with very little hustle. An average of only 15,000 jobs per country for The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan comes to 105,000 jobs. If Kenya and Uganda can secure 100,000 and 40,000 jobs respectively from one single country in this group for one year, our 100,000 jobs target for the 7 mentioned above is very achievable.
SALARIES AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE FOR GULF MIGRANT WORKERS
Though there are Ghanaians working in various high level fields in these countries, like doctors, project engineers and consultants, oil and gas experts, university lecturers etc., most of the job opportunities in The Gulf available to Africans and Ghanaians are middle and low level jobs like construction artisans (carpenters, masons, steel fixers, plumbers, electricians etc.), labourers, cleaners, drivers, heavy machine operators, mechanics, certified security guards, hospitality staff, nurses, factory hands, etc.
The average salary of a construction artisan is 1800 cedis, labourers, cleaners, factory hands etc earn about 1,200 cedis. Drivers, security guards, heavy machine operators, mechanics, etc earn between 2,200 and 5.000 cedis plus.
These jobs and salaries come with free hostel accommodation, free transportation to work and back, free medical care, free food or food allowance, free return ticket to Ghana for 2 months paid leave every two years etc. This is about 4-5 times higher than their earnings in Ghana, their homeland.
420 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR IN REMITTANCES:
As stated earlier, Migrant Workers in The Gulf send an average of 70% of salaries back home.
Taking a median salary of $500 a month, a remittance of 70% on the average translates to $350 a month per person. For 100,000 people employed in a year, this translates to a whopping 35 million USD per month or 420 Million USD (1.85 BILLION Cedis) per year in remittances to Ghana.
If these same people through their remittances also cater for an average of 3 dependents each you kill many birds with a single stone:
1. Reduce unemployment by 100,000
2. Increase the standard of living of another 300,000 dependents.
3. Have a huge inflow of over 400 Million USD per year
Increase the numbers to 200,000 and you get an inflow of almost one Billion Dollars a year from Ghanaians in The Gulf as inward foreign remittance in a single year!
OTHER REVENUE SOURCES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Each candidate, before he leaves the shores of Ghana to work abroad, goes through the Exit Permit process and pays 300 cedis before being granted an Exit Permit. 100,000 workers in a single year will translate to 30 million cedis in Exit Permit fees alone. With an airport tax of $50 per passenger, 100,000 workers will generate another 5 Million USD (22 million cedis ) in airport taxes.
Since ALL workers to The Gulf go through mandatory thorough medical exams costing on the average 150 cedis, our various medical laboratories would see a huge boost in business. Laboratories will share a market of about 15 million cedis in one single year, plus other peripheral businesses also enjoying huge patronage.
To stretch it a bit, even the newly proposed Ghana National Carrier will also benefit if it flies to just one central destination in The Gulf and has code sharing with a major airline there to transit passengers to other Gulf Countries. We are talking of an average of almost 300 passengers a day, 9,000 passengers a month, to make up to the target of 100,000 workers in a year. They can be structured to enjoy a large market share.
INCREASE IN EXPORT REVENUE FROM NON TRADITIONAL EXPORTS
One important benefit we often forget is how such a high concentration of Ghanaians in a geographical location will increase the export of Ghanaian goods and products tremendously.
Gari, Shito, Palm oil, powdered fufu, corn dough, cereals like tom brown, local sponges, alata samina, Ghanaian movies, are some of the items that those already there continue to ask for. Many of these workers have free food, 3 times a day, but they often miss the local foods they are used to.
Companies with Ghanaian workers I have spoken to are interested in being supplied with indigenous Ghanaian foods, to be cooked for Ghanaian workers. They already have employed Ghanaian cooks mainly for this purpose.
THE ROLE OF LICENSED, GHANAIAN INTERNATIONAL RECRUITMENT AGENCIES
Many companies in The Gulf rely on the supply of workers from Recruitment Agencies that have been licensed by The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to recruit Ghanaians for jobs abroad. Each of these agencies has gone through a thorough criminal background check on its Directors and Principals by the CID of The Ghana Police, have had their offices inspected by The Labour Department, and have deposited 25,000 cedis as deposit to be used for repatriation in case a worker is stranded abroad.
They go through strict procedures to recruit workers for companies abroad, including having all contracts checked and the genuineness of the employer abroad and job opportunity verified by The Labour Department of Ghana BEFORE being allowed to undertake any recruitment.
Recruited workers are briefed and documented before being issued Exit Permits to allow them to travel and work abroad.
These agencies on their own travel to The Gulf to negotiate for, and secure jobs for Ghanaians, then come back to arrange interviews, selection and deployment of these workers under the STRICT supervision of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations through the Labour Department of Ghana.
THREAT TO LICENSED AGENCIES
However the MAJORITY of recruitment of Ghanaians to foreign countries is being done by “connection men”, travel and tour companies which have no licence to undertake recruitment, and criminal human traffickers, hence many people who go through these illegal channels end up in serious problems, giving the whole industry a bad name.
Some Ghanaian job seekers are made to travel on visit and tourist visas instead of RESIDENCE AND WORK VISAS. Others are promised one job and end up being coerced to do a totally different job which results in agitations and termination of their contracts by the companies.
Fake and illegal agencies also promise huge salaries and false conditions of service which turn out to be false.
These practices are almost impossible for a Licensed Agency to indulge in because their recruitment processes are supervised by The Labour Department on behalf of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations.
It is imperative for the Government of Ghana to offer total support to these Licensed Agencies and build their capacity to be able to efficiently execute their mandate. Their contribution towards the reduction of unemployment has been huge, yet they are offered very little protection against the work of illegal operators and human traffickers.
Ironically, illegal operators are able to deploy tens of Ghanaians daily to The Gulf and other parts of the world, whilst the legal, licensed agencies sometimes suffer frustrations from the authorities in securing Exit Permits and other relevant official facilitation when undertaking their work.
This if not checked will make Ghana an unattractive source country since multinational receiving companies abhor any sign of inconsistent supply of workers.
Frustrating legal migration through licensed agencies is a sure way of enhancing the work of illegal operators and illegal migration, since people will go through whichever means possible to seek greener pastures abroad
Ghana should follow the example of the East African countries in negotiating and signing MOUs with the Gulf countries to augment the work of private licensed agencies in finding jobs for Ghanaians in The Gulf, and also in countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and certain European countries.
The previous NPP government once signed an agreement with Italy to supply 500 artisans a year to that country. Unfortunately little was heard of it afterwards. I think this policy should be revisited and promoted and more countries brought on board.
The Labour Department should be strengthened to undertake their mandate effectively.
A part of the Exit Permit fee should be retained by them to finance periodic trips to receiving countries for monitoring negotiating new contracts.
Capacity building workshops and training should be organized by them for Licensed Agencies. Names of Licensed Agencies should be published widely for interested candidates to be protected from unlicensed recruiters.
The Ghana Police Anti Human Trafficking Department and the Ghana Immigration Service should up their game to ensure that illegal recruiters do not operate.
Any media house found to be advertising jobs abroad for an unlicensed or illegal agency should be dealt with appropriately by the relevant authorities as this is an irresponsible practice that has been fueling the deceit of Ghanaians and promoting illegal migration.
Some Asian countries even sponsor their citizens through Licensed Private Employment Agencies to work abroad, after which they pay back to The Government in installments. Instead of sponsoring soccer fans to watch football tournaments abroad, we should be sponsoring the youth to find jobs abroad, and legally.
Our Missions in these countries should have a Labour Desk with a Labour Attache to offer support to Ghanaian migrant workers, and also explore more opportunities in their country of posting for the unemployed back home as is done by the Philippines Overseas Labour Office (POLO) and being replicated by Kenya and other African countries.
100,000 jobs for Ghanaians in Gulf countries in 12 months, giving us over 400 million USD in remittances in a single year, is doable and of utmost importance. I pray our authorities would consider this humble suggestion.
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